Popliteal fossa

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Popliteal fossa
Posterior view of human male - popliteal fossa.png
Back view of human male. Locations of the popliteal fossae are circled in blue
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Popliteal fossa of the right leg.
Latin Fossa poplitea
TA A01.2.08.013
FMA 22525
Anatomical terminology

The popliteal fossa (sometimes referred to as the hough,[1] or kneepit in analogy to the armpit) is a shallow depression located at the back of the knee joint. The bones of the popliteal fossa are the femur and the tibia. Like other flexion surfaces of large joints (groin, armpit, cubital fossa and essentially the anterior part of the neck), it is an area where blood vessels and nerves pass relatively superficially, and with an increased number of lymph nodes.



The boundaries of the fossa are: [1]

Superiorsuperior and medial:
the semimembranosus & semitendinosus muscles
superior and lateral:
the biceps femoris muscle
Inferiorinferior and medial:
the medial head of the gastrocnemius muscle
inferior and lateral:
the lateral head of the gastrocnemius muscle and plantaris muscle


The roof is formed by (from superficial to deep): [1]

  1. skin
  2. superficial fascia, which contains the small saphenous vein, the terminal branch of the posterior cutaneous nerve of the thigh, posterior division of the medial cutaneous nerve, lateral sural cutaneous nerve, and medial sural cutaneous nerve
  3. deep fascia or popliteal fascia


The floor is formed by: [1]

  1. the popliteal surface of the femur
  2. the capsule of the knee joint and the oblique popliteal ligament
  3. strong fascia covering the popliteus muscle


Structures within the popliteal fossa include, (from superficial to deep): [1]

It is of note that the common fibular nerve also begins at the superior angle of the popliteal fossa. [3]

Additional images

See also

Related Research Articles

Human leg lower extremity or limb of the human body (foot, lower leg, thigh and hip)

The human leg, in the general word sense, is the entire lower limb of the human body, including the foot, thigh and even the hip or gluteal region. However, the definition in human anatomy refers only to the section of the lower limb extending from the knee to the ankle, also known as the crus. Legs are used for standing, and all forms of locomotion including recreational such as dancing, and constitute a significant portion of a person's mass. Female legs generally have greater hip anteversion and tibiofemoral angles, but shorter femur and tibial lengths than those in males.

Femoral triangle

The femoral triangle is an anatomical region of the upper third of the thigh. It is a subfascial space which appears as a triangular depression below the inguinal ligament when the thigh is flexed, abducted and laterally rotated.

Great saphenous vein large, subcutaneous, superficial vein of the leg

The great saphenous vein is a large, subcutaneous, superficial vein of the leg. It is the longest vein in the body, running along the length of the lower limb, returning blood from the foot, leg and thigh to the deep femoral vein at the femoral triangle.

Popliteal artery

The popliteal artery is a deeply placed continuation of the femoral artery opening in the distal portion of the adductor magnus muscle. It courses through the popliteal fossa and ends at the lower border of the popliteus muscle, where it branches into the anterior and posterior tibial arteries.

Groin the two creases at the junction of the torso with the thighs, on either side of the pubic area

In human anatomy, the groin is the junctional area between the abdomen and the thigh on either side of the pubic bone. This is also known as the medial compartment of the thigh that consists of the adductor muscles of the hip or the groin muscles. A pulled groin muscle usually refers to a painful injury sustained by straining the hip adductor muscles.

Cubital fossa The human elbow pit

The cubital fossa or elbow pit is the triangular area on the anterior view of the elbow of a human or other hominid animal. It lies anteriorly to the elbow when in standard anatomical position.

Tibial nerve

The tibial nerve is a branch of the sciatic nerve. The tibial nerve passes through the popliteal fossa to pass below the arch of soleus.

The biceps femoris is a muscle of the thigh located to the posterior, or back. As its name implies, it has two parts, one of which forms part of the hamstrings muscle group.

Gracilis muscle

The gracilis muscle is the most superficial muscle on the medial side of the thigh. It is thin and flattened, broad above, narrow and tapering below.

The semimembranosus is the most medial of the three hamstring muscles. It is so named because it has a flat tendon of origin. It lies posteromedially in the thigh, deep to the semitendinosus.

Semitendinosus muscle Origin : From the lower medial part of upper quadrilateral area of the ischial tuberosity

The semitendinosus is a long superficial muscle in the back of the thigh. It is so named because it has a very long tendon of insertion. It lies posteromedially in the thigh, superficial to the semimembranosus.

The common fibular nerve is a nerve in the lower leg that provides sensation over the posterolateral part of the leg and the knee joint. It divides at the knee into two terminal branches: the superficial fibular nerve and deep fibular nerve, which innervate the muscles of the lateral and anterior compartments of the leg respectively. When the common fibular nerve is damaged or compressed, foot drop can ensue.

Posterior cutaneous nerve of thigh

The posterior cutaneous nerve of the thigh provides innervation to the skin of the posterior surface of the thigh and leg, as well as to the skin of the perineum.

The saphenous nerve is the largest cutaneous branch of the femoral nerve. It is a strictly sensory nerve, and has no motor function.

Popliteal lymph nodes

The popliteal lymph nodes, small in size and some six or seven in number, are embedded in the fat contained in the popliteal fossa, sometimes referred to as the 'knee pit'. One lies immediately beneath the popliteal fascia, near the terminal part of the small saphenous vein, and drains the region from which this vein derives its tributaries, such as superficial regions of the posterolateral aspect of the leg and the plantar aspect of the foot.

Posterior compartment of thigh

The posterior compartment of the thigh is one of the fascial compartments that contains the knee flexors and hip extensors known as the hamstring muscles, as well as vascular and nervous elements, particularly the sciatic nerve.

Anterior cutaneous branches of the femoral nerve

The anterior cutaneous branches of the femoral nerve consist of the following nerves: intermediate cutaneous nerve and medial cutaneous nerve.

Nerve supply of the human leg

Cutaneous innervation refers to the area of the skin which is supplied by a specific nerve.

Outline of human anatomy Overview of and topical guide to human anatomy

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to human anatomy:


  1. 1 2 3 4 Buckenmaier III C; Bleckner L (2008). "Chapter 20: Popliteal nerve block". The Military Advanced Regional Anesthesia and Analgesia Handbook. Rockville, Maryland: Defense & Veterans Pain Management Initiative (DVPMI). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-02-20. Retrieved 2011-06-08.
  2. 1 2 3 Clinically Oriented Anatomy by Moore, 6th edition
  3. http://teachmeanatomy.info/lower-limb/areas/popliteal-fossa/